Diversifying your genre

All of us humans have something in common. We have our own likes and dislikes when it comes to food, drinks, entertainment and even physical activities. And it’s no surprising that we only go for what we like and avoid what we dislike at all cost. After all, who wants to feel uncomfortable?

But as the saying goes, being uncomfortable is what allow us to grow and to be better. When it comes to writing, that means diversifying.

In order to write, it’s necessary for writers to read a lot. That’s how they can learn and grow to become better at their craft. So if a writer prefers only science fiction, like in my case, then he or she would read up anything set in that genre to get inspiration, improve on their character development, world building, etc. Maybe occasionally, he or she would read books or novels in another genre because it managed to catch their attention.

However, this approach may not be as effective as you think to help you grow as a writer. There are only so many variations you can do a particular genre that you will find yourself doing the same thing as those authors when you are finally done with a story.

Let’s take science fiction as an example. There are two main type of science fiction: hard and soft (not a very precise term). Hard science fiction doesn’t play fast and loose with the laws of physics. Every piece of technology or ideas featured must have basis in real life. On the other hand, soft science fiction allows for faster-than-light travel, fantasy elements like super human powers, etc. And under each category, you can have space opera-type, utopia-type science fiction and dystopia-type science fiction. As for enemies, maybe you have either aliens, rogue machines, or maybe another species of humans.

Just imagine what would happen if you stick to reading and writing only science fiction forever…

I have always been writing and reading science fiction throughout my late teens and adulthood. My ideas are really only drawn from science fiction books, video games or shows that I’ve seen. After a while, I realised I’m doing the same shit as the rest are doing. I’m not growing any more. It’s boring as hell.

That’s why I decided to go into horror. There is this goal of mine. To be able to merge science fiction, horror and thriller together to create a compelling story. As some people said, the best ideas are those that intersects multiple themes.

And to be able to do that, in my view, it means that you have reached the height of your writing ability. I also know it will take a lot of hard work.

For a start, you have to consume the right kind of horror. You have to understand what it meant to create horror. There are so many horror movies out there. Video games too. And you can always read Stephen King’s books like The Shining and IT. For me, I love horror because of the way they make me feel. They make me worry for the characters, worry about what’s going to come out and scare me out of my seat, etc.

But when it comes to creating it, it is difficult. I mentioned it once in a previous post. And I remembered what my school English teachers once said, “Horror is very difficult to write. Please don’t do it for your English composition, especially during examination if you want to pass.”

They are right. You see, I’ve been stuck for weeks now when it comes to writing Part 3 of Murderous House as I wasn’t sure how to bring out the suspense and make my readers fear for the characters anymore.

Yet it doesn’t mean that you give up. I’m not giving up just yet as I still try to put in words and form the story paragraph by paragraph. It’s important that we use this kind of situation to learn and grow further. Now, since I don’t know how to bring out the suspense or horror anymore, then I have to go find inspirations and also dig deep into my memories of how horror make me feel and then realise something suitable for the story. I’ve got to read more horror. And I’ve got the game Resident Evil 2 (2019) keeping me at the edge of my seat. I can draw on those feelings I get to write.

When I do get out of this debacle, it would meant that I have learnt something new and could apply it to my next piece of writing. As the skills get developed further, it would allow me as a writer to experiment comfortably and to tell a better story. That means I would be one step closer to my goal of telling a story that merges science fiction, horror and thriller genres.

So if you enjoy writing a story of a specific genre, maybe it’s time you stop for a while and change. Let’s say you enjoy reading and writing romance novels. Maybe it’s time you switch to action stories. Or maybe thriller. Who knows. Maybe you can create an even more compelling romance story based on your diversification.

Video games – Powerful tool and source of inspiration for you writers

Video games is one of the few entertainment mediums that actively immerse you into their world through the combination of graphics, audio, video, and your interaction with it. A well designed video game with properly crafted story, e.g. Horizon Zero Dawn, is a good complement if not the better option if you are looking for inspirations for your next piece of writing, especially if you are a fiction writer.

Fiction writing for me truly started during my secondary school days when I wrote fan fictions based on a video game franchise I played. It gave me a strong base to start from so that I only focus on telling a story with existing characters or elements. It allowed me to train myself to tell a story.

Through the act of playing video games and immersing yourself in them, you can picked up a lot of things subconsciously that included the theme of the game, environment designs, character designs and behaviors, and the message, if any, that it is trying to tell you.

It was those materials that enabled me to start a series of text-based role-playing games where I honed my planning and team work skills. The planning skill subsequently enabled me to create ideas for trilogies. Sad to say, those text-based role-playing games are no longer available online because the players, including myself, have moved on with more important things in life. But there were many important lessons learnt. Whether I can recall those lessons consciously is another matter.

Video games can also help you to discover yourself. One of it is teasing out your preferences or maybe even reinforce what you already know. In my case, after having played so many different titles, I found myself gravitating towards games that are either space opera, military actions, mystery, exploration, supernatural powers, or unconventional societies. Sometimes you can find games with a combination of those themes. Some examples are Mass Effect, Halo, and Starcraft. So when it comes to my fiction writing, you will also find aspects of those themes because I truly enjoy those. And playing those games help to expand your mind to the possibilities.

In addition, I also enjoy games that featured darker themes like extreme violence, torture, horror, and sexual references. Some examples of those games are Condemned: Criminal Origins, F.E.A.R, and Resident Evil. These days, my writing also contain those elements because I want the readers to feel concerned, worried or dreadful as they flipped the pages.

They can also help you to break through writer’s block by taking your mind away from writing. It’s no different from going out for a stroll in the park but with the added advantage of it could give you a sudden burst of ideas that you could subsequently used. There were times when I was running on empty, after playing a couple hours of video games, I found myself inspired or motivated to write more.

Recently, I stopped playing video games for two months and found myself practically running on empty again. What I already have in my head are ideas that I have long harbored but they aren’t useful in my current writing. I tried reading a fiction book written by someone but it don’t seem to do much to me. I suspect it was because of the style of writing and the overall direction of the story doesn’t really interest me. So it’s not the book’s fault.

I figured I probably should sign in to my Steam account and start getting some games to play to re-inspire me or re-motivate me again.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m Stephen King or any of those New York Times bestsellers. Who I am is a writer who needs a balance between creating and consuming. Video games just so happen to be powerful source of inspiration and entertainment for me. It’s so much better than watching a movie or a show on Netflix. Reading books is ranked second when it comes to source of inspiration and entertainment.

Video game fan-fiction – best training shoes for creative writing

You played that video game and fell in love with it. You loved the characters, the story, and the whole game universe. It made you read everything there is to read about the game. The game became a franchise and you played every single title ever released.

I know because I was a fan of the Command and Conquer series. I searched through the web for any juicy bits of information about the in-game universe as I could

Then you thought about what ifs. What if this specific game character was on this mission. What if the ending wasn’t like this. It goes on and on. There’s just so much ideas and you decided to just write.

That’s how I discovered my love for creative writing. I enjoyed drafting out short stories about some of the in-game characters and expanding it. I remember vividly how I wrote pages after pages in those exercise books I got when I was still in secondary school. I had callouses between my index finger and thumb because I gripped my pen too hard and wrote almost everyday for two months.

One good thing about fan fictions is that the canon universe is already established by some other people. It’s less taunting than you trying to create a whole universe from scratch. For brand new stories, it takes a lot more effort on your part to think about the world, the characters, etc. I know because I do write fictions. Sometimes it could get so overwhelming that you decided not to write at all. For fan fictions, you could easily borrow some of the in-game elements as part of your writing. That was what I did and that made it easy for me to focus on the story I want to tell.

The other thing is you can get it out there much easier especially if you are a true fan. You will know where are the best places to publish you work. As I was a fan of the Command and Conquer series, I know there were some fan sites that allow you to submit fan fictions. People are less judging of the work you put out unless the story you wrote is totally out of the game canon universe. Well, at least that’s how I remember it.

If you aren’t a fan, it would be pretty scary to publish your writings online on some random blog or platforms like Medium. It doesn’t matter if you are a fifteen year or a sixty year old. That sense of dread of publishing your work for the first time is just scary. I know because I still have that lingering feeling even after I have published some articles online and hundreds of personal journals on my blog.

So go find a video game that you love so much. Be a fan and find out everything there is to know. Then start writing your own fan fictions about some of the characters or your own interpretations of in-game events. You can even put yourself as a main character in your fan fiction. Focus on the story you want to tell and hit that publish button as part of your training.